NC STATE Home Page NC STATE UNIVERSITY - Environmental Health and Safety 2620 Wolf Village Way Cmpus Box 8007, Raleigh NC 27695  Phone 919.515.7915 FAX 919.515.6307 NC STATE Home Page



A large number of injuries occur each year from the improper use of ladders. The following safe practices addresses the placement and use of ladders.


To comply with OSHA Standard 1910.25-27 "Portable and Fixed Ladders"


All areas using ladders must comply with the OSHA standard. All employees must understand the safe ladder use and practice.



1. Place the ladder base at a 1:4 ratio from the vertical (horizontal/vertical). For every 4 feet of working length the base of ladder should be 1 foot out from the top support (See Illustrations Setup | 4-to-1 Ratio | Securing the Ladder).

2. Extend ladder 3 feet above the top support point.

3. Use ladders only in a vertical position. Ladders are not a substitute for a scaffold or a runway between two elevated surfaces.

4. Keep ladder directly off of window panes or sashes.

5. Keep ladders away from front of a door that opens toward the ladder unless the door is locked, blocked, or guarded.

6. Place a portable ladder so both side rails have secure footing. Provide solid footing on soft ground to prevent the ladder from sinking.

7. Place the ladder feet on a substantial and level base not on movable objects.

8. Lean ladder against secured backing.

9. Securely lash or otherwise fasten ladder to prevent slipping when using a ladder for access to high places.

10. Secure bottom and top of ladder to prevent displacement when using ladder for access to a scaffold.

11. Keep ladder away from electrical wiring.

12. One person at a time will be on a ladder.


Make periodic ladder inspections for structural integrity.

Conduct quarterly inspections as a minimum. Record all inspections made.

Remove defective ladders from service when noted during inspection. Tag it with "DANGEROUS - DO NOT USE". Do not use until ladder is repaired.

Destroy any ladder that cannot be repaired.

Ascending/Descending Ladder

1. Both hands must be used on ladders. Raise/lower needed material by mechanical means.
2. Keep the center of gravity centered as much as possible between the hands and the foot that is in contact with the ladder.
3. Always face the ladder going up or coming down.
4. Never slide down a ladder.
5. Make sure shoe bottoms are not greasy, muddy, or slippery before you climb.
6. Do not climb higher than the third rung from the top on extension or straight ladders or the second tread from the top on step ladders.

Other Practices

1. Make sure step ladder is fully opened and the metal spreader locked before you start to climb ladder.
2. Keep ladders clean and grease free.
3. Do not use ladders during a strong wind except in emergency and only then when tied securely.
4. Do not leave placed ladders unattended.
5. Avoid using metal ladders around energized electrical circuits or equipment.



Fixed ladders cannot be moved. Provide access to specific elevated locations. All fixed ladders over 20 feet in length must have a cage or well.

Other Characteristics

1. Pitch of 75-90 degrees
2. Designed to bear a load of 200 pounds
3. 3/4 inch rung diameter
4. Rungs 16 inches wide
5. Rungs spaced no more than 12 inches apart
6. Hand or side rails extending 3 ½ feet above the landing
7. Minimum clearance of 2 ½ feet on the climbing side of ladders with 90 degree pitch and 3 feet for a 75 degree pitch
8. Clear width of 15 inches on each side of the center line of ladder
9. 7 inch clearance in back of ladder to assure adequate footing
10. Painted, if metal or appropriately treated to prevent deterioration if conditions indicate


Projects requiring the installation of fixed ladders must be done under the direction of a professional engineer. OSHA 1910.27 Sub-part D will be followed.

When fixed ladders are used on towers, tanks, or chimneys, use appropriate ladder safety devices. A ladder safety device is an appliance that will arrest the fall of an individual.